[EMBASSY VOICE]Veterans, trade and a festive state visitLater this week the New Zealand governor general, Dame Silvia Cartwright, will arrive in Seoul for a state visit. This is the first visit by a New Zealand head of state to Korea. A state visit is an exciting highlight of any two countries’ relationship ― and of any ambassador’s term.
I know that Dame Silvia is very much looking forward to her visit. Before she left New Zealand, she met with members of the extensive Korean-New Zealand community. There are now some 35,000 Koreans living in New Zealand, nearly 1 percent of the New Zealand population, which I am told gives New Zealand the highest number of Koreans per capita than any other country in the world. The Korean community is an important, vibrant component of our increasingly multi-racial country.
In my brief time here I have been very pleased to find that New Zealand is well known to many Koreans. Through tourism, education and working holidays, many Koreans have had the opportunity to experience the unique landscape and lifestyle that we New Zealanders love and cherish.
Our friendship began during the Korean War, when many young New Zealand servicemen took up the call to come to South Korea’s defense. A group of 30 veterans of the Korean War will be travelling with the governor general for special commemorative services. These annual visits to Korea are very important for the veterans, and I know it gives them an immense sense of pride and achievement to see the modern country which they feel they helped make possible. One unique legacy of the war is that Korea and New Zealand now share an ancient Maori love song, “Pokarekare Ana,” which Maori soldiers taught their Korean comrades during the war, and which has since been taken up by Koreans as “Yonga.” I have heard this song sung by a group of New Zealanders and Koreans, each in their own language, and the harmony of the music struck me as a very poignant symbol of the bonds between our countries.
These people-to-people links are the basis upon which strong relations between nations are built.
The visit of the governor general is an opportunity for us to celebrate this friendship, and to highlight the many facets of our modern, dynamic, broad-ranging relationship.
There is no doubt about the economic importance of Korea to New Zealand. Korea is now our seventh-largest trading partner, and Korean exports to New Zealand have been growing rapidly over the last few years. The joint Korea-New Zealand Business Council will hold its 22nd annual general meeting next week, an opportunity for people to renew and reinvigorate the personal relationships which underpin their business relationships.
There is, of course, always room for more to be done ― for further lowering of tariffs, for creating greater certainty for traders and providing greater choice for our consumers. Both Korea and New Zealand are nations that depend on trade for their economic well-being. We need to vigorously pursue opportunities to bring our economies even closer together.
I am also pleased that the economic relationship has recently taken off in new directions.
Both countries understand well the importance of science and technology to our growth and development. While New Zealand is small, it is a country that has a long tradition of valuing innovation and creativity, and achieving excellence. The New Zealand-born Nobel Prize laureate Alan McDiarmid was here in Korea just last week to open the Dr. Alan MacDiarmid Energy Laboratory, to be housed at Chonnan University in Gwangju. There is exciting scope for creative collaboration between New Zealand and Korean scientists.
Film is another exciting area. Koreans already know New Zealand as a country that created the international blockbusters “Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong” and “The Narnia Chronicles.” The combination of stunning sets from our natural landscape and state-of-the-art technology allows impressive and Oscar-winning special effects. During the governor general’s visit we will be showcasing the New Zealand film sector and exploring the potential for more Korea-New Zealand film collaborations.
I hope too that the governor general’s visit will provide Koreans with an opportunity to get to know more about one of New Zealand’s great leaders. We New Zealanders are all proud of her achievements. New Zealand was the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote, and so there has been a long tradition of women’s participation in public life.
For us to have a woman as governor general represents the pinnacle of women’s achievement in our country. I am looking forward to hearing Dame Silvia deliver a keynote speech at Ewha University later this week, where she will receive an honorary doctorate. I am sure she will give us some fascinating insights into her personal experiences.
New Zealand has always understood the importance of being well-connected to the countries of our region and to playing our part in world affairs. We are committed to continuing to work together for our mutual peace and prosperity. The visit of our head of state is an important symbol of the value we place on this relationship, and of the friendship between New Zealand and Korea.
by Jane Coombs Ambassador of New Zealand